Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blog Migration

I've decided to start a new blog... on the heels of Craft Buff, I'll be maintaining a blog that better suits my current life circumstances: Baby Buff!

If you'd like to have access to the new blog, please contact me (via blogger) for permission. I've decided to set the new blog to private so that I can post more personal photos and stories, but I'd love to give access to all interested family, friends, and acquaintances.

I may continue to occasionally contribute to Craft Buff in the future, but will likely concentrate on Baby Buff for the next several months. See you there!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Gardening Fame

I was interviewed for a gardening segment on a local television show this weekend. It was live TV, which was definitely intimidating, and John and I are both still laughing about how the word "altruistic" just popped out of my mouth. It's sort of like when my sister-in-law Ginny said, "I'm famished" on a family vacation several years ago. She still hears about it. I'm sure "altruistic" is going to work its way into many a conversation from here on out. Sigh.

Click here for a link to the segment.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Well-Crafted Commencement Address

This is a departure from my usual posting style, but I thought some of you might be interested in reading J.K. Rowling's Commencement Address at Harvard.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination
J.K. Rowling delivers the Commencement Address at Harvard

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.

The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter convention.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain , without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London .

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.
Thank you very much.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Totoro Mural!

As I have written many, many times before, one of my favorite movies is My Neighbor Totoro. So when I thought about decorating the room for our upcoming baby, my first thought was, of course, to create a Totoro mural. Now while I am crafty in several realms, muralist is not a label I apply to myself with any confidence. So I enlisted (okay, bugged until he agreed) my brother Adam to create a forest-with-Totoros mural for the nursery. Here are some shots of the muralist extraordinaire in action. Adam had to paint about 5 layers of white on Totoro's stomach, so it's taken a while to complete, but we're nearly there and I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Room Prep

We've been working on transforming our spare bedroom/my study into a nursery for the past couple of weeks, and the prep work is almost done.

I decided to leave the walls the same color that they've been- a soothing hyacinth blue. The trim was a light brown color, and I decided to use Fresh Aire (no VOCs) paint and make the trim a darker brown. This paint is great because I can use it without worrying about the health impact, but here's a warning for anyone thinking about buying it: the color on the swatch is at least 2-3 shades darker than the paint itself.

An exciting discovery I made is that the hardwood floors in the bedroom were in great shape underneath some dingy old carpeting:

We pulled up the carpeting and I'm now working on pulling up all of the little staples from the floor. Fun times, but at least Meowzle and Mochi are helping me (see below):

Many thanks to Sarah and Ryan for their help with painting the stuff I can't do, and for taking all the carpeting out to the trash!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's A...

We had an ultrasound on Monday, May 5 (Cinco de Mayo, appropriately) and found out that we're expecting a baby boy. No, he won't be named Suck Butter, for those of you who read the comment thread on my last post!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why My Crafting Productivity Has Dropped

Yep, that's right-- I've been a quiet, inactive crafter/blogger as of late for what I deem a very good reason-- the first trimester of pregnancy! I suppose I could consider this the greatest crafting collaboration of my life and blog about it regularly, but I'm not sure it'd be as much fun to read about my fatigue and headaches as is is to read about monkey blankets and art smocks!

I hear from lots of people that the exhaustion and sickness is going to end any day now, so maybe I'll turn into a super-crafter soon. If I start blogging with great speed and show amazing craft productivity, you'll know that that's happened. :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Inordinately Proud

I am inordinately proud of my husband's recent excursions into the world of crafting, especially since I have been experiencing a crafting dry-spell myself (more on that in a few days' time). John has been making pieces for various games he plays, including Heroscape. The picture above is of some columns he crafted from cake-decorating materials purchased from Michael's. Although I was away in NYC during most of this crafting experience, John did call me to tell me that the cats were very involved in the process. Meowzle, our older cat, apparently enjoyed licking the modeling clay that John put inside each of these columns for stability.

The pieces in the photo below were each painted and then covered with a layer of flocking. The green flocking looks remarkably like catnip, causing Meowzle to sample some yesterday. Aside from the cat-related difficulties, John thoroughly enjoyed his foray into the world of crafting, and I, for one, hope he continues with such projects. :)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Uncle Tom: Holiday Crafts, Part Deux

My Uncle Tom got crafty this Easter (not unlike Christmas). Here is a picture of the canning jars he repurposed to make lovely candy gifts for all of us. Note that this one has a cat sucker on it-- not surprising, given my love for my kitties.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Becky's Babies

A long time ago I blogged about skirts that I made for my friend Becky's adorable twins, Isobel and Ophelia. Little peanuts that they are, the skirts still fit them! I love that they're wearing bandannas in this photo. Oh, and the fact that Ophelia is doing a number on Isobel's ear.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hopping Back from NYC Just in Time for Easter

After a trip to NYC last week, I was very happy to arrive home on Saturday. I know this is probably abnormal, but I really don't enjoy visiting NYC at all. I imagine it's quite different if you actually live there, but I find trips there stressful and expensive. I guess it might be different if I enjoyed shopping (but I hate it) or if I had the money to eat really well (but I don't). Nonetheless, it was great to see my friend Sarah, who founded an amazing arts organization, to hang out with my long-lost buddy Tomoka, and to attend the CIES conference, but all in all, I'm just so glad to be back.

On the Easter front, I wrote an article about Polish Catholic Easter baskets (swieconka) for Buffalo Rising. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mea Culpa!

My apologies for being a scatter-brained blogger as of late. I am off to a conference today (the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society, in case you were wondering...) and won't be back until the weekend. But if I find some cool craftiness while in New York City, I'll be sure to take photos so I can be a better blogger upon my return!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Popcorn in the News

I wrote an article about a local popcorn supply company for Buffalo Rising recently. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Crafty Bea

Terra has posted a great photo of Bea in crafting action-- here she is wearing the smock I made a while back.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Fabric Found?

I think I may have finally found the fabric I want to use for my kitchen curtains! I'd prefer if this fabric had a white background with a black pattern, but after MUCH searching, at least I've found the sputnik-ish pattern. Now I'm thinking I should get a clock to match, too:

Friday, March 7, 2008

If Only My Blender Looked This Snazzy

I think my appliances may experience craft envy! Donna felted this lovely blender cover from a piece of roving I gave her a while back. I love the idea of dressing up one's kitchen appliances!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Back from Cleveland, No Crafts in Tow

I traveled to Cleveland State University this week to give a lecture on higher education and gender so I haven't had any time to craft over the past couple of days. It was interesting to be a fly on the wall in Ohio on March 4th, however--- everyone I asked was really unsure of what the democratic primary results would be. Well, the results are in and voter turnout was at record highs across Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island, but my crafting productivity is still at an all-time low. C'est la vie. I'll jump back into the crafting swing of things soon, I'm sure.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Ali!

My friend Ali only has a birthday once every four years, poor guy! But seeing as how yesterday (February 29) was his 9th (!) birthday, we decided to host a little surprise dinner party for him. In addition to really delicious food from Buffalo's Aladdin Cafe and cake from Sweet Tooth, we surprised Ali with some fun presents. John and I gave him this mosaic table for his new(ish) house. I found the table (and plates that I broke up to make mosaic pieces) at the Amvets Thrift Store in Buffalo.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Two Monkeys Down

I've completed two monkeys for my blanket-in-progress. So cute, right?!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Buffalo's Middle Eastern Markets

An article I wrote for Buffalo Rising was published online on Monday; the print version comes out in March as well. Check it out!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Two Degrees of Separation: Kanye West and Me

Okay, so I guess it really is true that people are connected in the strangest ways sometimes. Our friend Kagan, dad to Islay and artist extraordinaire, watched a movie starring Weng Weng while we (Kagan and his wife, Sandy, and me and John) were on vacation on Manitoulin Island a couple of summers ago. John, who is king of obscure movies, found the movie online and brought it to share with Kagan. They watched it on my laptop out near a bonfire one night. Kagan was inspired to draw a picture of Weng Weng in his rocket pack that night. Then a while later, Kagan and his brother Sean, who comprise the hip-hop group The C.H.U.D.S. put out a rap and video that blew up on YouTube. Recently Kanye West featured the video on his blog. So there you have it: me --> Kagan --> Kanye West.

Here's the video, for your viewing pleasure:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Monkeys Needed

I've finished all the granny squares for the sock monkey blanket I'm crocheting. Now it's time to make some monkeys! That's the part I'm looking forward to. I'm not so keen on crocheting all the granny squares together, but I'll plow ahead because I can see the light at the end of the (carpal) tunnel and I think this blanket will look darn cute when it's done.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lara: Embroidering in Tanzania

My friend Lara made this cool embroidered bag. She is living in Tanzania right now and working as the Field Coordinator for IRC in Kibondo. I sent her some embroidery supplies a while back, and voila! Globalized crafting once again...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Inspiring Crafter

I'd like to introduce my blog readers to a most inspiring crafter: Donna Ferraro! Donna and I met a couple of weeks ago through my sister Sarah. We all needle felted and knitted together, and I mentioned to Donna that I originally got interested in needle felting because I saw photos of some really cute fairies. I also talked, as I usually do, somewhat incessantly about my cats.

Fast forward to today, when Sarah stopped by with a lovely bag of crafts from Donna for me! First, I am the proud recipient of this lovely needle felted fairy. It's amazingly intricate- not only is her face hand-painted, but her skirt is crafted from flower petals, and her legs are movable and beautiful, as they're wire that's been hand-wrapped with embroidery floss! Donna named her "Thimbleberry Fairy" and I am so happy to have her in my home. I've placed her on our chandelier for the moment, because it's one of the few places I know that Mochi (the wool destroyer) can't reach. I think the Thimbleberry Fairy looks cute there- like she's watching over our family meals. She even came complete with fairy dust!

Donna didn't forget about Meowzle and Mochi, and they sure are grateful for that! She sewed an organic catnip toy for each of the kitties, and as the pictures below indicate, they LOVE their new fish. In fact, they haven't stopped playing with these toys since I opened them 45 minutes ago. The packaging for these catnip fish is adorable, and the premium organic catnip, combined with the enticing ribbons, has made for two very contented cats.

And one very happy cat owner/crafter. Thanks a million, Donna. You made my day.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another Crocheted Tote

I finished another crocheted tote recently. I've been meaning to post a photo of it for a week or two, but just got around to taking it. I'm not sure who this will be gifted to but it'll be a great catch-all/grocery tote for someone, not unlike the crocheted cotton totes I made a while back.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Monkey Blanket Update

As I posted before, I've been working on a really cute crocheted blanket featuring sock monkeys. I searched many local yarn suppliers for the right yarn for the monkeys themselves. Alas, I learned that none of them were carrying Bernat Denim-Style yarn in Rodeo Tan any longer. What to do? It just wouldn't be right if these monkeys were the wrong color, and I'm way too impatient to wait for an eBay order to arrive. After several agonizing trips to various stores, I finally found a replacement- Bernat Softee Chunky Twists yarn in Taupe. Yippee! Let the sock monkey crocheting commence.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Love You This Munch

As I've written before, we're not really into Valentine's Day around here. It feels sort of forced to celebrate on a day so commercially-oriented. But the spirit moved me today, and I made John a valentine anyway. Not just any valentine, though... a zombie valentine. I can't take credit for the images on the card-- they're from here and here and here. This valentine is comprised entirely of recycled file folders and paper and (because I couldn't find regular glue) wood glue. It's not falling apart anytime soon. Those who know John will be unsurprised to hear that he really liked this gift.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Haya's Sweater

I knitted a sweater for my dear friend Hanna when she was pregnant with her lovely (and generally quite smiley, although not in these photos) daughter Haya. Sometimes when I knit, crochet, or sew congratulatory presents for expectant parents I make them pretty big-- the idea being that the item will be in the life of the child a bit longer than if I made it to fit a newborn. Since Haya lives in Madison, WI, I figure it's great that this sweater fits her well now, in the middle of winter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ginny's Got a Blog

My sister-in-law Ginny (who's been mentioned and/or featured a whopping 9 times on this blog; the most recent time was here) has just started a baking/knitting/crafting in general blog. She's got a great post today about a scarf she knitted. Check it out!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Crafty Donna and Crafty Di

I spent parts of this weekend learning and teaching various crafts. On Friday, crafty Rochesterian (is that right?) Donna taught me and my sister Sarah how to needle felt. I wish I'd had my camera with me, because Donna's needle felted creatures are really something to behold! I made a cute chick that sort of looked like a Peep but it was destroyed by Mochi, who was overcome with joy when she got her paws on that wool. John came in to my office and said, "I'm afraid I found a crafting casualty." He was carrying the poor chick's shredded body in one hand and wings in another. I also helped Donna learn how to knit on Friday, but she's a natural, so I really can't take any credit.

Then on Sunday, Diane and I spent a couple of hours working on various projects, including a lovely hat that Di knitted for a friend in Germany. I also taught her how to crochet a granny square. I look forward to see her first granny square blanket sometime soon!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Balloon Crafts

My sister just sent me an e-mail with photos of the most amazing balloon dresses. I did a bit of googling and found this wonderful balloon toilet as well.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Too Busy Crocheting To Post

The past few days I've been crocheting and knitting like crazy. I made a bag (future birthday present for someone, to be featured at a later date), started a baby sweater and bought supplies for an awesome monkey blanket (pattern via Happy Hooker). Here's hoping it will look as good as the one above, made by Big Girl Feet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Windy Day

There's a storm in Buffalo today; it's one of those perfect opportunities to stay inside, crank up the heat, pop popcorn and watch a movie. The course I'm teaching is canceled for tonight because the college is closed, John is home sick for the day, and the cats are happy campers.

If it wasn't so darn cold, I'd think about building an igloo in our backyard.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Totoros Galore!

My husband John is one of the best surprise-gift givers I have ever encountered. He's not one to celebrate on predetermined days (we're not big on Valentine's Day around here, for example), but he'll often surprise me on a non-holiday with something really cool. Today is one of those days! The mail carrier rolled up around 10:30 AM with a big box from Japan. Whenever I get a box from Japan via John, I immediately suspect that a Totoro gift is inside. After opening the lovely packaging, my suspicions were confirmed. Not only did John get me a large, extremely warm Totoro blanket, he also bought the cutest Totoro apron and bag (see below). And there were two origami Totoros included in the box. I just found online instructions for how to make your own origami Totoro; check it out here.

The items came gift-wrapped (of course I saved the paper for re-use):

And, on top of the lovely gift wrapping, one of the items had an origami Totoro decoration:

The incredibly warm and lucky Clover Totoro blanket now gracing our couch:

My new bag, perfect for carrying books to school and/or groceries:

My new apron, which I absolutely love and can't wait to put to use: